Back from abroad

For many Macalester students, junior year is a time of change and transition. All students must declare their majors, many decide to live off campus and large portions of the class are gone during the fall and spring semester. As one might imagine, this removal from campus life and later reintroduction can be quite an adjustment for juniors returning from a semester abroad.

Emily Sanford ’17 said after getting back from a semester studying tropical biology in Costa Rica, “It’s great to be back. I love being back with my friends and classmates.”
The adjustment, however, requires flexibility. Since the last time the returning juniors were on campus, the senior class has graduated, there is an entire new cohort of first years on campus, not to mention that Scotty’s now serves burritos during the lunch hour. In some ways, the Macalester that the juniors left in at the end of Spring term 2015, is a different place than the one that they returned to this semester.

The returning junior class has a great deal of changes in its environment, so adjustment back to life at Macalester might be hard. Alyssa Heitfeld ’17, who spent fall semester in Copenhagen, Denmark, studying English literature and media and cultural studies, said that returning to some things in the United States, like familiar food brands, made parts of coming back to the States an easy adjustment. However, Heitfeld did say that, “Winter break was still very helpful in adjusting back into life here.” The increased amount of freedom and transnational mobility that Heitfeld experienced while abroad, as well as starting life in a new city, made her time abroad truly feel “like starting college again.”

The feeling of beginning college anew that some Macalester students experience can make it difficult to stay fully connected to campus life and friends. Sanford explained how she stayed connected to campus culture: “I mostly used Facebook to keep in contact with my friends who were also abroad. I also skyped with my friends occasionally. Once I Skyped into a Scotch Tape rehearsal, which was really great!” Heitfeld offered a similar sentiment, citing social media as a means to stay in contact, but also acknowledged that it was difficult to keep up the same level of intimacy in friendships as one experiences when everyone is living on the same campus. Heitfeld also mentioned that some of her friends she stayed closest to were those also studying abroad, as they were having similar transitional experiences.